Canada Sikh Cadets Win Their Colours

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Jan 7, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Sikh Cadets win their colours

New cadet corps emerges from partnership between Canadian Forces and B.C. Sikh community

DND - April 12, 2012

Pluralism in Canada's military family will take another stride forward this Vaisakhi with the formation of the first ever Sikh Cadet corp in the country.

Born out of a long military tradition, the Sikh cadets will be supported by the newly formed Friends of Sikh Cadet Corps Society and the Regional Cadet Support Unit (Pacific) "This is a historic moment for us," said Harbinder Singh Sewak, publisher of the Vancouver-based South Asian Post newspaper, who mooted the idea two years ago.

"Two years ago it was a dream, today that dream is coming true with the help of some very dedicated people in the com-munity and the Canadian Armed Forces," said Sewak. Growing up in Malaysia and India, the young Sewak was surrounded by a soldierly family, rich with the lore of military exploits, heroics and community service by members of the clan.

"For me engaging the Canadian Forces through the Canadian Cadet Program with Sikhism was natural," said Sewak, who has also organized the participation of Canada's military units at events like Vaisakhi and Remembrance Day ceremonies at Sikh temples.

"Sikhs have a long military history and there has been a desire in the community to increase our participation with Canada's forces," said Sewak, the chairman of the Friends of Sikh Cadet Corps Society. Although the Cadet Programis focused on teaching Leadership and Citizenship as well as promoting physical fitness, its goal is also to stimulate an interest in the Canadian Forces.

"The formation of the Sikh Cadets will allow families to both connect with Canada's military family and acquire valuable life skills for their children."

General Walt Natynczyk, the Chief of Canada's Defence Staff, who himself spent five years as an Air Cadet, and Rear-Admiral Nigel S. Greenwood, Commander Maritime Forces Pacific have both enthusiastically endorsed the growth of the Canadian Cadet Program. Sewak's idea to form the Sikh cadets got immediate support from Commander Stan Bates, CO of the Regional Cadet Support Unit and Phillip Sherwin, President of the Army Cadet League in BC.

"We formed this society because as Sikhs we believe we have the duty to teach our children about honour, loyalty and the Khalsa tradition," said lawyer Amandeep Singh, one of the Society's founders.

"The Canadian Forces and the Cadet Movement hold these values to heart so we feel this is the perfect partnership."

Another of the founders, Babar Tumber, a contractor in Surrey said the Sikh Cadet corps is open to everyone.

"It is not unlike being associated with units like the Seaforth Highlanders who blend Scottish tradition with Canadian values," he said.

"Our aim is to provide an avenue for Sikh youths, and other young Canadians, to make valuable contributions to our society in terms of community activities."

The Sikh Cadet corps will be "getting its colours" that is to say, receiving their own Corps Flag, and the process starts with pre-registration opportunities at this year's Vaisakhi celebrations. The mammoth parades in Surrey and Vancouver will also see a significant presence by members of the 39 Canadian Brigade Group led by its commander, Colonel Bryan Gagné and an aerial fly past by elements of the RCAF. Colonel Gagne was an early supporter of the concept of establishing a Sikh Corps, and he played a key role in connecting the organizers with the Regional Cadet Headquarters. For parents interested in enrolling their children in the Sikh Cadets, there will be booths set-up at both the Vancouver and Surrey Vaisakhi parades.

Major Brian Martin, a spokes-man for the National Defence Public Affairs Office said the Cadet Program, the largest federally-sponsored youth program in Canada, includes the Royal Canadian Sea, Army and Air Cadets.

"The Sikh Cadets will be part of a national program for young Canadians aged 12 to 18 who want to engage in challenging and re-warding activities while learning about the sea, army and air activities of the Canadian Forces," said Major Martin.

In addition, adults are also welcome to join the program as Cadet Instructors.

"You don't have to enroll in the Canadian Forces to teach cadets, there are opportunities for Civilian Instructors, however if you have the knowledge and skill set required, you can become a member of the Cadet Instructors Cadre," said Major Martin, adding people with experience in first aid, rock-climbing, sailing or flying are not always that easy to find. Cadet Instructors can receive training in these skills.

All Adult instructors including those who are already Military Personnel will be required to undergo screening prior to becoming involved with the Cadet Pro-gram.


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